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CANNES 2022 Special Screenings

Review: Riposte féministe

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- CANNES 2022: In Simon Depardon and Marie Perennès' serviceable documentary, women reclaim the streets as their own and it’s hard not to cheer

Review: Riposte féministe

Selected at the 75th Cannes Film Festival as a Special Screening, Marie Perennes and Simon Depardon’s Riposte féministe [+see also:
trailer
interview: Marie Perennès and Simon De…
film profile
]
, about feminist groups operating all over France, isn’t too interested in stirring up another revolution as far as documentary filmmaking is concerned – it’s really as basic as they get, with both filmmakers telling Cineuropa they like to disappear behind the camera.

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It’s not 100% accurate, this statement, as there is some introductory voiceover here – a bit too solemn actually, especially when confronted with the energy of these girls. Luckily, it’s soon dropped, Alizée is singing, and people are dancing. It may sound silly, but it’s not – being alive, happy and showing it in public is an important act of resistance.

Also because, as someone points out, so-called “public spaces” don’t always feel like ones. They are open to men and very often they are the ones dictating the rules. Suddenly, women who are just walking down the street feel threatened, diminished or disrespected. After Sarah Everard’s case, for example, there has been many sentences like these, repeated over and over again: “She was just walking home, just jogging, she was just on her way to meet friends.” And then she was attacked, hurt or murdered. In a public space.

Obviously, it’s nothing new. But younger women refuse to accept it, at least the ones in the film. They are furious and armed with a brush. Perennes and Depardon focus on so-called “feminist collage collectives”: people, mostly girls, who go out at night with buckets of glue and some paper, and stick their statements, condemning violence and femicides, right on the wall.
“Even my dog understands when I tell him no.”
“There is no love in crimes, so don’t call them crimes of passion.”
“I believe you.”
In other words, they are usually short and to the point.

Frankly, it all feels a bit like street art, like poetry staring right at you as you go about your daily business. During recent protests in Poland, mainly provoked by its restrictive abortion law, people were also rather creative linguistically. That, and they also kept things short and to the point, “Fuck off” being one of their main slogans, styled like the famous “Solidarność” logo. It would be interesting to explore all this further one day, see how language can be used in such cases. Or how it can help.

Unlike some other recent docs about young activists, especially the ones focusing on climate change, this one is not really looking for tomorrow’s heroes. It’s a group effort, to put up these collages on the walls, and this is very much an ensemble piece, too. It is stated that things won’t always be pleasant: if “patriarchy is violent, its fall will be too.” Some would already like to push things much further – when faced with anti-abortion groups, they yell right in their face: “My body, my choice. SHUT YOUR FACE!”

But ultimately, instead of scaring potential newcomers away, this documentary could actually be considered encouraging. These fighters find joy in being around each other, in doing things together. They cheer on each other, share details about their lives. They are interested in making things better, even though their preferred method literally won’t stick for too long. Sometimes, as they are about to walk away, someone is already ripping their collages down. They irritate them or, as the girls point out, some just don’t want to know. Well, nobody said that being a feminist would be easy. It takes more than watching Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady in Fire [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Céline Sciamma
film profile
]
, someone says a bit dismissingly – and hilariously – in the film. In my book, it would still make for one hell of a start.

Riposte féministe was produced by Palmeraie et Désert and France 2 Cinéma and is sold internationally by Wild Bunch.

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